PARENTS

R: What Is The Rooting Reflex?

19/03/2010 10:00 | Updated 22 May 2015

The rooting reflex, or 'search reflex' is nature's way of ensuring a newborn baby locates his or her source of nutrition, either the breast or bottle.

The reflex can be triggered by stroking the newborn's cheek, or running a nipple, finger or teat along the side of the baby's mouth. This will cause the baby's head to turn towards either the breast or the bottle in preparation to feed.

The baby will also making sucking - or rooting - motions with its mouth, which it will use to latch on to the source of milk.

It is mistakenly considered to be a sign of hunger when in fact it is the baby's desire to locate a food source rather than satisfy the physical need to be fed.

The rooting reflex is unique to newborn babies. It develops while the baby is in the womb, and usually disappears by three or four months of age due to the baby's increasing ability to control the reflex. However, it is not unusual for a baby to display the reflex until around 12 months of age.

If the baby does not show signs of a rooting reflex, this could indicate a problem. As it is a survival instinct, the rooting reflex is usually a very evident and strong impulse. A lack of rooting reflex should always be raised with a doctor or health visitor.

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